Friday, September 28, 2007

"You seriously drink this stuff? What's it, like nonfat soy vegan blood?": Moonlight

I've long had a fascination with vampire mythology. I'm pretty sure it started with Bram Stoker's Dracula and Gary Oldman's wonderful portrayal of Dracula, which captured my teenage mind and, let's face it, spoke to my silly teenage heart. Since then I've sought out many television shows and movies simply due to the fact that a vampire was involved. Sometimes this obsession worked in my favor (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, From Dusk 'Til Dawn) and other times...well, other times it didn't.

This is one of those times.

I managed to get my hands on the 20 minute pilot presentation CBS commissioned in the spring, and although it was kind of silly and cheesy as all hell, I still thought the premise was interesting enough to give it a shot. When they replaced all of the actors except the lead (The Shield's Alex O'Loughlin) and brought Buffy and Angel veteran David Greenwalt in to take over as showrunner, I was ecstatic because it seemed CBS was committed to really making an interesting vampire saga. Then, unfortunately, Greenwalt had to step down for personal reasons. Greenwalt's absence is strongly felt in the new pilot, which is a mess of monumental proportions.

Moonlight revolves around Mick St. John, a 90-year-old vampire/private detective whose purpose in life since becoming a vampire is to help solve crimes and punish bad guys. I think. He was turned by his ex-wife (Shannyn Sossamon), who the show would like us to believe is dead. Yeah, doubtful. His best friend is 700-year-old vamp Josef (Veronica Mars' Jason Dohring, saving my sanity just by appearing on screen for five short minutes), an uber-rich businessman who enjoys the more murderous side of being a vampire. Why they are friends I do not know since everything they stand for is in complete opposition, but as long as it puts Dohring on my screen each week I don't rightly care. Lose the suspenders, though, Joe. I can't think you are menacing when you are wearing suspenders.

Mick meets tabloid reporter Beth Turner (Sophia Myles) at the murder scene of a Hearst College student. Despite the fun Veronica Mars shout-out, the murder mystery plot is a complete bust. Predictable, plodding and boring, this procedural-type element only serves to take up space and meet CBS's requirement that crime be involved in every one of their shows. The "twist" is that Beth isn't exactly a stranger to Mick. He rescued Beth when she was kidnapped by his evil ex-wife as a child, and Mick has been creepily watching her from afar ever since. Am I the only one that is completely weirded out by this? CBS is selling this show as a romance, but his semi-stalking past makes me a little queasy.

Usually a horrible pilot isn't enough to keep me off a show forever, but it was the way in which this show was horrible that concerns me. The dialogue was completely laughable, attempting to be self-serious and "witty" at the same time and failing at both. The acting was mediocre, with only Dohring standing out as potentially interesting, and that's probably only residual Logan Echolls goodwill. The music was awful -- I mean, Evanescence? Scenes from next week as a Celine Dion video? Gag. The directing was almost strangely incompetent, stagnant with no sense of pacing whatsoever. I have never seen a less scary scene than the scene of the second murder in the diner. It was pitiful.

Most egregious, however, was the way the vampire mythology was presented. The episode opened with Mick conducting an "interview" answering all of the questions about what it's like to be a vampire. His answers conveniently included all of the vampire rules we'll need for the series -- stakes can't kill him, but beheading and fire can; garlic is delicious, especially when mixed with crucifixes and holy water; and daylight doesn't kill him but gives him a vicious bellyache. This was so lazy it was insulting, and immediately tipped me off to just how "off" this vampire show was going to be.

Out of loyalty to Jason Dohring and the vampire species as a whole, I'm going to give this one a few more episodes, but I don't have high expectations. CBS obviously wants to stretch their brand a little bit, but I have a feeling this show is not long for the world, or at least for my Tivo.

Oh, and Todd? You can say "I told you so" now. I know you're dying to let it out.


Marilyn said...

the main purpose of this show is to make me miss Angel. I didn't mind the lead too much, and I liked Jason Dohring as well, but I hated the blonde, and it was hard to follow the plot. You're right about the so-called scary scenes. They were just blurry ciphers. The tone was off. And yes, why would the lead guy be friends with the rich guy?

I'll watch a few more times, maybe, but mostly, my Friday nights remain open, and I need a day to catch up on my other DVR'd shows.

Justin said...

Is that S.S. in the cast photo?

That's not a real big attempt to convince us she's dead, if that's the case.

Nea said...

This was a let down for me too. I wish Jason Dohring was in it more. I agree with the other comment about not liking the actress playing the reporter very much. The only thing I liked about the Celine Dion video is that it looked like the fact that dude is a vampire is not kept from the reporter for show after show. That may be good for the romance aspect.

Todd said...

I got halfway through this and decided life was too short. You are braver than I, Carrie.